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Dee

Ill-Fated Ups Jet Was On Autopilot Seconds Before Crash

5 posts in this topic

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama (Reuters) - The UPS
cargo jet that crashed in Alabama this week, killing its two crew members, was
flying on autopilot until seconds before impact, even after an alert that it was
descending too quickly, authorities said on Saturday


 

"The autopilot was engaged until the last second of recorded data," said
Robert Sumwalt, a senior official with the National Transportation Safety
Board.


 

He said information retrieved by investigators from the flight data recorder
aboard the United Parcel Service jet showed that its auto throttle also was
engaged until moments before the fiery crash.


 

The Airbus A300 jet was approaching the runway at Birmingham-Shuttlesworth
airport before dawn on Wednesday when it clipped the trees in an adjacent
residential area and crashed into a steep embankment well short of the
runway.


 

Sumwalt, who spoke at a media briefing near the crash site, had said on
Friday that the pilots received a low altitude warning barely seven seconds
before the sound of impact. He repeated that in his remarks on Saturday but did
not say whether the alert had triggered any attempt by the crew members to
disengage the autopilot as part of a last-ditch attempt to abort landing and
re-gain altitude.


 

The pilots did not issue a distress call.


 

Sumwalt stopped short of saying there was anything unusual about a so-called
"instrument approach" to the airport using autopilot.


 

But he said the NTSB would be looking closely into "UPS's instrument approach
procedures" and how it typically went about guiding a large cargo hauler to
touchdown on Birmingham-Shuttleworth's Runway 18.


 

That's the runway the UPS jet was approaching when it crashed and Sumwalt
said the investigation would include a flight test at the airport in a UPS
A300.


 

Kevin Hiatt, president and chief executive officer of the Flight Safety
Foundation, an Alexandria, Virginia-based international watchdog group, told
Reuters in an interview on Thursday that a "full instrument" landing was not
highly advisable at Birmingham-Shuttlesworth.


 

The airport can be tricky to land at because it is nestled among hills and
that is especially true of Runway 18, said Hiatt.


 

Hiatt, a former Delta Airlines pilot, said he had touched down on the runway
many times himself.


 

"It is not a full instrument landing. You have to visually fly into that
runway," he said. "Sometimes it takes nuance to land there. You have to realize
that hill is there or you could come in too low."


 

The crash occurred shortly before dawn in rainy conditions as low-lying
clouds hung over Birmingham.


 

So far, Sumwalt said there was nothing to indicate the crash was caused by
engine failure or any mechanical issues.


 

He also said the runway lights were examined and found to have been "within
one one-100th of a degree of being properly aligned" at the time of the
crash.


 

UPS has identified the dead crew members Cerea Beal Jr., 58, of Matthews,
North Carolina, and Shanda Fanning, 37, of Lynchburg, Tennessee.


 

As a standard part of any accident investigation, Sumwalt said the NTSB was
looking into the physical and mental well being of Beal and Fanning in the 72
hours before the accident.


 

Beal, the captain of the downed aircraft, had about 8,600 hours total flying
experience, including more than 3,200 hours in the Airbus A300, according to the
NTSB.


 

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The question now is how many time this "autopilot" function is made by airlines! :eek: :miedo:

specially during landings!

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Yeh, I can understand possibly utilizing it if you have a real long flight but at the same time monitoring all of your controls.  Who knows, they could be engaging auto pilot and catching some zzzz's..... scary to even think about it.  Whenever I fly I just say a prayer that the flight reaches its destination safe and sound....

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On a good note at least the it was a cargo plane and not a commercial airline full of people  :training:

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True, so true, especially with all of the mishaps that have been going on in the world today.  About a week or so ago there was a young lady that had just came to the states.... Most likely you heard of this ordeal.  She was standing on the sidewalk eating a hotdog and before you know it a cab jumps the curb and hits her.  From this altercation she lost a limb... so sad.  But thank God shes still alive...

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